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  Banks, Nathaniel P.
NameNathaniel P. Banks
Waltham, Massachusetts , United States
Born January 30, 1816
DiedSeptember 01, 1894 (78 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Aug 10, 2015 06:21pm
InfoNathaniel Prentiss Banks, congressman, governor of Massachusetts, and Union general, was born on January 30, 1816, in Waltham, Massachusetts, to Nathaniel P. and Rebecca (Greenwood) Banks. Working in the cotton mill where his father was superintendent later earned him the sobriquet "Bobbin Boy of Massachusetts." He married Mary Theodosia Palmer in 1847 and was a member of the Massachusetts House from 1849 until 1852; he was speaker for two years. Banks was elected as a coalition Democrat to the Thirty-third Congress in 1853 and as a candidate of the American (Know-Nothing) party to the Thirty-fourth Congress, which he served as speaker. He was elected as a Republican to the Thirty-fifth Congress and served from 1853 until he resigned in 1857 to become governor.
After his service as governor of Massachusetts from 1858 to 1861, Banks was commissioned major general of volunteers, on May 16, 1861 - as a political appointee. His field career was rather dismal but his appointment served its purpose in rallying support for the war effort. With no prior military experience, he was in divisional and departmental command near Washington early in the war. Banks' heavy mustache and well-groomed appearance complemented his tall, thin frame. It was said that he had the air of one used to command. Several Confederate prisoners of war, upon seeing him, commented they "never saw a more faultless-looking soldier:' Unfortunately for Banks, he also had the qualities of many political generals. He had courage, but was short on talent and experience. He was a model soldier except in the fields of intuition and training, but Lincoln sent him into the Shenandoah Valley anyway. With 38,000 men, Banks committed himself to driving Jackson from the valley in the hopes of linking up with McClellan and his coming advance on Richmond and the Confederate seat of government. But he was routed by Stonewall Jackson and due to his tremendous loss of supplies was dubbed "Commissary Banks" by the Confederates. After setbacks against the Southerners in Virginia in 1862, he journeyed to New Orleans and succeeded Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf. Acting in concert with Ulysses S. Grant's campaign to open the Mississippi River, Banks attempted to storm Confederate defenses at Port Hudson in May and June 1863 and received the surrender of the city on July 9. For obvious political reasons, he received an official "Thanks of Congress" for his Port Hudson campaign, then at the government's direction prepared to move against Texas in an attempt to influence the French presence in Mexico, to secure stores of cotton, and to restore a Unionist government to the state.

Banks planned a quick thrust at the mouth of the Sabine River, then an overland move upon Houston and Galveston. The invasion resulted in a Union disaster at the battle of Sabine Pass. Six weeks later Banks left New Orleans with twenty-three ships and landed an invasion force at Brazos Santiago, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, on November 2, 1863. Union troops soon occupied nearby Brownsville, Texas, and began to drive northward along the coast and up the Rio Grande to shut off the trade coming through "the Confederacy's back door."

Banks returned to New Orleans just one month after the landing at Brazos Santiago, pressed by his superiors to invade East Texas by way of the Red River. The Red River campaign ended in a Union failure and was Banks's last active command. He was honorably discharged from military service on August 24, 1865, and subsequently entered the House of Representatives. During his last years he served in Congress, as a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and as United States marshal. Congress awarded him a $1,200 annual pension. With his health broken during his last term in Congress, he returned to Waltham, where he died on September 1, 1894, survived by a son and two daughters.



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Importance? 9.00000 Average

Wife Mary Theodosia Palmer Banks Apr 11, 1847-Sep 01, 1894

  11/06/1888 MA District 5 Won 51.80% (+5.08%)
  11/07/1876 MA District 5 Won 51.97% (+3.93%)
  11/03/1874 MA District 5 Won 64.91% (+29.83%)
  11/05/1872 US Vice President Lost 0.28% (-80.97%)
  11/05/1872 MA District 5 Lost 39.21% (-21.57%)
  11/08/1870 MA District 6 Won 64.43% (+33.14%)
  01/19/1869 MA US Senate Lost 0.37% (-92.99%)
  11/03/1868 MA District 6 Won 65.97% (+31.94%)
  11/06/1866 MA District 6 Won 74.96% (+49.91%)
  11/07/1865 MA District 6 - Special Election Won 80.75% (+61.49%)
  05/18/1860 US Vice President - R Convention Lost 6.16% (-51.82%)
  11/08/1859 MA Governor Won 54.02% (+21.57%)
  11/02/1858 MA Governor Won 57.61% (+25.49%)
  11/03/1857 MA Governor Won 46.58% (+17.78%)
  11/04/1856 US President National Vote Lost 0.00% (-45.28%)
  11/04/1856 MA District 7 Won 61.95% (+35.64%)
  06/20/1856 US President - North American Convention Lost 23.45% (-17.26%)
  06/19/1856 US President - R Convention Lost 0.14% (-72.69%)
  06/19/1856 US Vice President - R Convention Lost 5.69% (-59.03%)
  02/02/1856 US House Speaker Won 13.41% (+0.88%)
  01/31/1855 MA US Senate - Special Election Lost 0.49% (-62.32%)
  11/12/1854 MA District 7 Won 73.53% (+53.10%)
  12/13/1852 MA District 7 - 2nd Trial Won 50.33% (+3.33%)
  11/08/1852 MA District 7 Won 30.76% (-11.21%)
  05/27/1850 MA District 4 - 9th Trial Lost 1.02% (-46.54%)